January 23, 2013

Faith Leaders Urge Action on Immigration Reform

Washington, D.C. – When members of the new Congress arrived on Capitol Hill yesterday (Jan. 22) they were greeted by calls from some 1,000 faith leaders, all asking the same question: “What are you doing to help enact immigration reform this year?”

The query was the centerpiece of a National Faith Call-In Day for Humane Immigration Reform, organized by the Interfaith Immigration Coalition, in which more than a thousand faith leaders from diverse traditions made phone calls to their senators yesterday urging them to pass immigration reform in 2013 that prioritizes family unity and provides a pathway to full citizenship for the approximately 11 million undocumented people living in the United States.

Coming immediately after President Obama’s historic second inauguration, the call-in day demonstrated religious congregations’ vigorous mobilization on the issue of citizenship for immigrants.

The  Rev. John McCullough, president and CEO of Church World Service, a member of the coalition, put the action in perspective, saying, “How could we not, when members of our congregations are afraid to report crimes for fear of deportation; when our neighbors have been separated from their families for years due to lengthy visa backlogs; when entire communities are cast aside and labeled 'illegal' in contradiction to their God-given worth?” 

Immediately following last November’s presidential election Erol Kekic, director of the CWS Immigration and Refugee Program, called immigration reform “an issue of urgent moral and economic importance to our nation”  and said the election results showed that “Americans want our broken immigration system to be fixed – and promptly.”

President Obama, who won more than 70% of Latino voters in the 2012 election, noted in his inaugural address that “Our journey is not complete until we find a better way to welcome the striving, hopeful immigrants who still see America as a land of opportunity.”

Faith leaders of diverse ethnic and religious backgrounds are exerting nationwide pressure on lawmakers to pursue this very goal by passing legislation that provides a pathway to citizenship for 11 million aspiring Americans.

Yesterday’s advocacy was yet another nudge to the White House and Congress in the ongoing attempt by CWS, the faith community and other immigration advocates to make immigration reform not just a priority but a reality in the United States.

McCullough said of the call-in, “We hope these efforts bear fruit, and that our policy makers act with moral courage and a commitment to good governance to realize Dr. King’s vision of equality and justice for all, including those whose journeys have brought them to toil alongside us for a better day.”

CWS provides immigration legal services and refugee resettlement services though a network of CWS offices and affiliates.  CWS also advocates for national, state and local public policies that are fair and that help reinforce welcome for immigrants and refugees.

The Interfaith Immigration Coalition is a partnership of faith-based organizations committed to enacting fair and humane immigration reform that reflects our mandate to welcome the stranger and treat all human beings with dignity and respect. Coalition members work together to advocate for just and equitable immigration policies, educate faith communities, and serve immigrant populations around the country. Through this coalition, hundreds of national and local faith-based organizations and faith leaders have called on Congress and the Administration to enact immigration reform consistent with these values.